Today I'm starting what will hopefully be a new series on Middle Grade Minded. Interviews with Librarians, Teachers, and Educators about what kids read. If you are in one of those categories and would like to be interviewed for the blog, please email MGminded (at) gmail (dot) com and put "What Kids Read" in the subject line. And if you have questions about what kids read that you'd like answered send them to the same email address.
And without further ado, our very first interview is with Author and Teacher Marie Meyer.
1.) What grades/age groups do you work with?
I teach 4th grade at a parochial school in St. Louis.
2.) What are some of your favorite middle grade books?
My students and I enjoy the FABLEHAVEN series by Brandon Mull, KEEPER series by Shannon Messenger, HARRY POTTER series by JK Rowling, THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY by Victoria Forester, OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M. Draper, RULES by Cynthia Lord, AT YOUR SERVICE by Jen Malone
3.) What genres/topics do kids seem to ask for the most?
In my experience, most kids enjoy fantasy the most.
4.) What book titles are the most popular right now?
The ORIGAMI YODA series by Tom Angleberger, the GERONIMO STILTON & THEA STILTON books by Elisabetta Dami, PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series by Rick Riordan, the FLOORS series by Patrick Carmen, just to name a few!
5.) What do kids seem to like the least or what do kids complain about when it comes to books?
Sadly, The students I work with (9 & 10 year olds) complain most about books that are long. They shy away from books with lots of pages and small print.
Most recently, my students were complaining about the length of the Harry Potter novels. In an effort to bypass reading the books, they begged me to tell them what happened, or they said they'd just watch the movies. This was a travesty to me. Every child needs to experience the joy of reading Harry Potter. To remedy this situation, I started reading HP as a read-aloud. At first, the kids protested with lots of groans and grumbles, but once I started reading (with voices and all), the kids were hooked! They couldn't get enough! They were fighting over Chamber of Secrets, wanting to be the first to read the second book as soon as I finished Sorcerer's Stone!
6.) What gets kids excited about reading?
Read-alouds get kids excited! I always choose read-alouds that are a part of a series. I will read the first book to them, to pique their interest, but it is up to my students to read the rest of the books in the series.
Kids also get excited if I read a book to them and then there's an author visit at one of the local libraries. I've taken several groups to meet an author after we've read their book. There is special kind of magic that turns a kid into a life-long reader when they get to meet the author of a book they love!
After reading FABLEHAVEN to my class last year, Brandon Mull visited the area. One of my students not only devoured the rest of his novels, but has been to every author visit Mr. Mull has made to the St. Louis area. Mr. Mull's stories and ability to relate to kids made quite an impression on my student! I also recall a very fun class trip to the library when Scott Westerfeld visited. Mr. Westerfeld was so personable and the kids just loved him (and his books!)
7.) If you've had author visits at your library/classroom what worked well and what didn't?
I haven't had any author visits to my school. But, I take my students to the city libraries for visits. Being at a small parochial school, there isn't much money to host author visits.
8.) Are there any other thoughts about children's literature or reading you'd like to share?
Kids like books that aren't "dumbed down." Give them an engaging storyline and they will rise to the occasion, difficult vocabulary and all! Kids are smart, they are able to figure out complex stories and characters.
As a teacher, one of my biggest pet peeves is when MG books feature one dimensional characters and a boring plot. A story like this will turn kids off reading. In today's day and age, books are forced to compete with gaming systems, apps, tablets, ect... For a kid to be engaged in reading, an author has to capture a child's interest and hold it, not an easy feat. But, if the story and characters are solid and well developed, a kid will put down their game, for a while, and lose themselves in the pages of a book!
Marie Meyer was a Language Arts teacher for fourteen years. She spends her days in the classroom and her nights writing heartfelt new adult romances that will leave readers clamoring for more. She is a member of RWA and the St. Louis Writers Guild. Marie's short fiction won honorable mentions from the St. Louis Writers Guild in 2010 and 2011. She is a proud mommy and enjoys helping her oldest daughter train for the Special Olympics, making up silly stories with her youngest daughter, and binging on weeks of DVR'd television shows with her husband. - See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/authors/marie-meyer/#about
Marie's debut New Adult Contemporary Romance, ACROSS THE DISTANCE, releases on May 5, 2015, from Grand Central Publishing/Forever Yours.
Marie is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.
Marie's Website/Blog: www.mariemeyerbooks.com
Follow Marie on Twitter: @MarieMwrites